Female visitors to Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand) are faced with a difficult moral dilemma regarding the taonga Maori collection included in an upcoming tour.
An invitation for regional museum staff to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of Te Papa’s collections included the condition that “wahine who are either hapu [pregnant] or mate wahine [menstruating]” were unable to attend.
Te Papa spokeswoman Jane Keig said the policy was in place because of Maori beliefs surrounding the taonga Maori collection included in the tour.
“There are items within that collection that have been used in sacred rituals. That rule is in place with consideration for both the safety of the taonga and the women,” Keig said.
She said there was a belief that each taonga had its own wairua, or spirit, inside it.
“Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect women from these objects.”
The policy does not apply to the entire exhibit, but to a “behind-the-scenes” tour offered November 5. Visitors’ reproductive status will not be verified in any way, but women are expected to be honest about it and obey the request.